Basketball Insiders continues its annual Fixing sequence by looking at groups all through the league. To date, we’ve coated the Washington Wizards and Minnesota Timberwolves. For the time being, we’ll be making an attempt on the Toronto Raptors, who’re calling Tampa Bay residence this season.
With the primary three weeks of the 2020-21 NBA frequent season contained in the books, groups are nonetheless making an attempt to get a grasp on how all of their devices match collectively. Whereas many groups have struggled out of the gate, the Raptors seem to be caught contained in the mud.
It was lower than two years beforehand that Toronto sat on extreme of the basketball world, capturing an NBA Finals championship over the Golden State Warriors. Every half seemed to be going their technique, from their rookie head coach to Kawhi Leonard’s epic bounce all through the rim in opposition to the Philadelphia 76ers. Nonetheless it has all gone south – fairly actually – since they entered the “bubble” in Orlando.
So, what have the Raptors achieved right or unsuitable this season, and the place do they go from correct proper right here?
Not heaps has gone right for the Raptors this season, nonetheless they do have just a few vivid spots to acknowledge – and a type of is the emergence of Chris Boucher. The sooner Oregon Duck celebrated his 28th birthday on Monday and has carried out very accurately this season. He had a monster recreation in opposition to the San Antonio Spurs, scoring 22 parts, with 10 rebounds and 7 blocks. Nonetheless these numbers don’t actually inform the story of his value to this group.
The one constructive lineups per 100 possessions for the Raptors are these with Boucher in it. He’s an elite rim protector, a flexible defender and can knock down the occasional three-pointer. Boucher shines contained in the paint as opposing groups shoot 15.1 p.c worse all through the rim when he’s on the underside.
One completely different side that appears to be working for Nick Nurse’s group is the customized and administration they’ve displayed. Third quarters have been the Achilles’ heel for this group, nonetheless they don’t merely wave the white flag. They frequently battle and claw their technique as soon as extra late in video video video games, which is a double-edged sword. Good that they’ve the resolve and energy to return as soon as extra, nonetheless inserting themselves in that state of affairs and determining of gasoline contained in the remaining minutes has clearly damage them.
Elsewhere, Fred VanVleet signed a four-year, $85 million contract this offseason. Usually there is also some regression after a participant cashes in on a mannequin new deal, nonetheless Widespread Freddy has been taking footage the ball very accurately this season. VanVleet’s scoring is up just about 5 parts per recreation whereas his full matter purpose proportion is up about 5 p.c as accurately. Earlier that, the guard continues to be taking footage 40 p.c from deep and ending elevated on the rim, but it surely absolutely completely hasn’t translated to wins.
What Isn’t Working?
The rules is extended, but it surely absolutely completely begins with their security. This has been the staple for Toronto in the previous few seasons, nevertheless, in the mean time, it’s nonexistent. By way of their first 9 video video video games, the Raptors rank 18th in defensive ranking, 18th in offensive ranking and are 18th in net ranking. Closing 12 months, Toronto gave up the underside three-point taking footage proportion to their opponents; to this point this promoting and advertising and marketing advertising and marketing marketing campaign, groups are taking footage over 40 p.c from earlier the arc in opposition to them. Even when groups miss footage, they’ll’t safe the rebound – worse, their principal rebounder in three of the primary six video video video games was every Kyle Lowry or VanVleet.
A large a part of the rebounding draw again eludes to arguably their finest matter – the frontcourt. The losses of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have weighed heavy on this group. Their replacements, Aron Baynes and Alex Len, have been of little to no assist. Baynes is a -18.three in group stage differential, which is actually the worst amongst their starters. Far more troubling, he has not been flattening his open three-point footage, making merely three of his 16 makes an attempt.
Sliding Baynes to the second unit won’t be the straightforward restore and, full, their bench as a complete has been atrocious. Toronto is reluctant to rely on unproven gamers like Matt Thomas, Malachi Flynn, Stanley Johnson and Terence Davis to play higher roles. Norman Powell has not confirmed any development and must be out of form. As a unit, they’re furthermore fouling an excessive amount of and solely the Wizards and Warriors have devoted additional fouls this season.
Offensively, the Raptors have struggled to create residence of their transition recreation, part of the sport the place they’ve historically thrived. Their half-court offense has been uncovered, notably when Lowry is on the bench. Toronto’s parts per 100 possessions is spherical 108 with Lowry on the underside nonetheless crumbles to simply 81.four with him off. VanVleet is an honest passer referring to discovering the open man, nonetheless his lack of functionality to make pocket passes or lobs contained in the pick-and-roll has crippled their offense.
One remaining matter is a really highly effective elephant contained in the room: Pascal Siakam merely hasn’t been the same participant on account of the league stoppage remaining March. After incomes the NBA’s Most Improved Participant award and rising as a key piece on a championship-winning group, Siakam has been a shell of himself in the mean time. His taking footage proportion dropped six p.c contained in the playoffs and he was scoring six parts so much a lot much less per recreation.
Many groups have put smaller defenders on Siakam to negate his fast velocity benefits – nonetheless he must be additional of a playmaker like Gasol was. That might be very true when Lowry shouldn’t be on the underside. Getting him choices in transition, the place he has frequently excelled, could also be key for Toronto’s turnaround.
What Needs To Change?
Whenever you happen to pay attention fastidiously, you presumably can hear the echoes of Raptors followers calling for Nurse to begin Boucher. He seems to be the flame which can ignite this group and get them out of their funk. They’re going to want his manufacturing on offense and, additional importantly, his defensive prowess as they enter a tough stretch of their schedule. Over their subsequent eight video video video games, they’ll face the Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and have two video video video games every in opposition to the Charlotte Hornets, Miami HEAT and Indiana Pacers.
Their subsequent 5 video video video games are at residence nonetheless that will very effectively be a relative time interval contemplating their short-term residence in Florida.
One completely different lineup change that Nurse may ponder is to play additional small ball. They’re already a poor rebounding group, so having enjoyable with OG Anunoby on the 4 and Siakam on the 5 may resurrect their transition recreation. Discovering the acceptable match at small ahead is maybe an exact job, contemplating the shortage of measurement they’ve already with Lowry and VanVleet on the guard positions. Nonetheless, if factors don’t enhance quickly, that is maybe one issue price making an attempt.
Focus Space: Trades/Free Brokers
This can be very seemingly that this roster as in the mean time constructed won’t be the same roster by the best of the season, notably if their slide continues. The commerce deadline looms on Mar. 25 and there are nonetheless some gifted free brokers within the hunt for a house. If we’ve realized one factor not too long ago, it’s that Masai Ujiri shouldn’t be afraid to shake up the roster with a deal.
Wouldn’t it is worthwhile to usher in a shooter like Kyle Korver to unfold the underside? He’s a safe veteran that is acutely aware of his function and would slot in accurately with the Raptors’ customized. One completely different set up to ponder is Shabazz Napier. In fact, Nurse is used to working with smaller guards that excel throughout the acceptable function. Having been a backup for lots of of his occupation, Napier typically is a unbelievable stage guard off the bench collectively alongside along with his velocity and court docket docket docket imaginative and prescient producing offense.
If Toronto explores commerce eventualities, there are just a few names that come to concepts. Patty Mills is maybe a low-cost likelihood at backup stage guard, should the Spurs be desperate to let him go. Myles Turner’s set up has been in commerce talks for a while, nonetheless he’s in the mean time swatting a league-leading 4 blocks per recreation. Nate Bjorkgren, the mannequin new head coach of the Pacers, was an assistant with the Raptors and can be eager on a deal that lands him a few of his former gamers. A deal like which can enhance their frontcourt if that’s what they need to take care of.
Inside the event that they need to infuse some offense and inventive playmaking on their bench unit, the Raptors should make a fame to the Pistons. Bringing in an individual like Derrick Rose makes nearly an excessive amount of sense, instantly elevating the second unit with scoring and shot creation – plus, Toronto most positively wouldn’t ought to quit any useful property. A deal involving Patrick McCaw, Davis and a few second-round draft picks may suffice the rebuilding Pistons, who have already got their stage guard of the long run in rookie Killian Hayes.
The Raptors haven’t missed the playoffs since 2013 – nonetheless they in the mean time have a 2-Eight file, tied with Detroit for the worst contained in the league. Whereas it isn’t time to hit the panic button merely nevertheless, Toronto followers have to have the ability to interrupt the glass, in case of emergency.